Nothing left but a memory and a recipe…

‘Si cara’   ‘yes dear’

Sounds very formal, however, my nonno, who died a year ago this week, used to call me cara- dear and the last time that I have a meaningful memory  of him other than the ones of my childhood is one of the time I brought my first born to visit. As a first time stay at home mother I was very lonely, I used it as a reason so see my maternal grandparents.

It felt amazing to see them, to visit every week for two straight years. After not seeing them after my parents divorce. After a childhood of weekly visits that ended when I was ten because of their separation. We visited weekly until my Nonna was admitted to care. I was leaving with my first born, pregnant with my second and tears in my eyes as my son screamed to be locked into his car seat, an acknowledgement of pain locked in our gaze, he (my strong, Italian born Grandparent who hid from Mussolini) said ‘oh cara’ – oh dear, with the look of love and sympathy on his eyes that I had not seen in ten years. My heart melted into a childhood heart, I cried. I was young, I had no help, I wanted my family. A sudden flashback came to me of my nonno calling me cara as a child.

Fast forward to his funeral; I see his brother who recently lost his son my cousin to a drug overdose and cried continually, when he’d stop to look at me,  he would hold my hand and say Oh Nina, my name is Sheri, but oddly growing up I always wanted my name to be more Italian, I wanted Nina or Gina. he always called me nina as a child, I thought it meant neice, as he was my Zeo gino, my uncle. A strong Italian immigrant came to Canada with his brothers for a better life. Always hard workers, always tax paying, law abiding citizens. All gone, my family from my childhood, gone.

With my dad suffering and witling away from dementia, my mom and I estranged since their divorce when I was a teen, my brothers, one a drug addict, a thief, on and off the streets, the other wanting nothing to do with our family. It is easy to feel sorry for oneself, but I try to remember that many, so many, still have it worse than I.

Thoughts of life and death wander through my mind and then sometimes with the reflections of those gone; a simple memory of soup. A warm meal served with love at my Nonna and Nonno’s house, a favorite place to be as a child. A beautiful memory, like the delicious homemade soup, warms my heart.

Italian Minestrone Soup





400 g of cannellini beans or a mix of pinto and garbanzo beans

2 liters of water to boil the beans

1 can of stewed tomatoes (unsalted)

200 g zucchini

500 g of herbs (Italian seasoning or fresh basil and oregano

150 g of pork rind or 100 g of raw ham

200 g of fine pasta

Parmesan cheese

extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

1 parsley

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tsp. pepper



  1. Place into a saucepan the prosciutto (ham) cut into strips or pork, together with oil, a chopped onion and parsley.
  2. As soon as the onion starts to boil, add tomatoes, beans, garlic, herbs, zucchini and season with freshly ground salt and pepper.
  3. Let it simmer for a few minutes, add the water in which the beans have been boiled, cover the pan and let it cook at moderate heat.
  4. Let it simmer, increase the heat and add  large macaroni pasta or small shell pasta, let cool.
The minestrone should be dense at the end. Serve it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Enjoy with a slice or two of fresh bread mmmmm.
Buon appetito.
Thanks for reading

Instant memories

A flash of  light, lightning in the sky taking you back to a time you forgot, the whiff of a scent instantly transferring you to a moment lost, a picture, a cloud, a breezing wind, a fallen tree random memories show you in an instant. Be they happy or sad they come with no invitation just a reminder tugging at a memory in our subconscious.

Like when I saw a 92′ Mustang yesterday and it reminded me of a childhood friend that was beaten to death in 2002. Or every time I pass an ambulance I think of the time my daughter was taken away for the last time in one. Or when my 4 year old lays on my chest, I am reminded of a favorite memory of mine, when my first born was 2 years old and I was pregnant with my second and he would lay on me as we both napped, I remember thinking it would be the last time it would be just he and I. When I see a lily flower or a rainbow, my daughter pops back in an instant, with a pang in my heart and a glaze in my eye. A lake brings me back to my childhood summers, carefree and swimming.

Every time I eat spaghetti or need to sew something I am reminded of my Nonna that passed away the same year my daughter died, who taught me to sew and fed me the most delicious of Italian cooking. The thought of fishing reminds me of my Nonno who joined her this year. Every time I hear the hideous word cancer, I think of the dozen or so family and friends that have died from various types of that disgusting disease in the last ten years. Or hear of another celebrity that takes their life, via suicide or overdose, I am reminded of the few lost souls of my past that have suffered the same fate. There was three of them, all boys 2 overdosed, 1 suicide, all within a few years of each other.

Thoughts can be so random, but the ones that creep up on you in an instant because of something you see or hear truly amaze me, in that our brains keep everything we have seen, heard or felt, unless shock or trauma have hidden them, but there are still those unfavorable memories we wish we could release from the time capsules in our head. Others we wish we could relive and savor forever.

The smell of a flower, or soup; the look of a stranger or rhyme in a song all triggering instant memories.

Thanks for reading,



Bean Salad; a memory

As I make dinner for the millionth time, chilli tonight, I add the six bean medley, stir and pause. Beans remind me of my family, baked beans of my father’s family, the stories of how being one of nine kids to parents that were let’s say busy, he had to open his own can of beans for dinner as a child often to eat straight out of the can. Needless to say as child I never ate a baked bean in my life, only when I asked my mom why because I had them as an adult and loved the flavor, she told me my dad forbade them from being in the house, he was a very gentle man, never said no and surely never forbade anything; too painful a memory perhaps.

But this can of mixed beans reminded me of my Nonnas bean salad we ate as kids, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, green beans, covered in vinegar, oil and salt. Delicious! My Nonna died with many recipes still in her brain unfortunately, her husband (my Nonno who was 91) just (she died five years ago) joined her finally. It is hard to think they are gone, they who taught me to sew and fish, who I stayed with on weekends, fighting with my brothers on who got to sleep in whose room, getting to drink Italian sodas and eating French bread dipped in coffee for breakfast.

All these memories brought on by a flow of beans emptying into a pot.

Earlier in the day my cousin posted a photo of my dad’s dad, my Grandpa Matilda(pictured above) when he was twenty-something; so young. Maybe that is what started this train of thoughts, maybe seeing that photo first things in the morning set off this day of reflection, but oh to be able jump into a photo and ask questions.

The past is so enlightening, I have always loved history, taking History twelve as an elective in grade eleven, yes the nerd I am. But it amazes me to know the lives of others, to understand hardships, to wrap your brain around the thought of no permanence, that there were millions of people before that lived and suffered and millions to follow. It is interesting how a photo or a food, a song or a scent can take you to another place.

I leave you with my Nonna’s Bean Salad recipe below.

Thank you for reading.



Nonnas Bean Salad 

(Nonno grew his beans, well all the ingredient’s in his garden of course)

2 cups -Italian Roman beans

-substitute with Pinto or Kidney (or use all 3!)

½ – full head chopped Garlic

Bunch of chopped fresh parsley

3tblsp Olive oil

1tblsp vinegar

1tblsp salt & pepper

Tossed together, let sit in fridge for a few hours, overnight is best.

Enjoy its simple fresh goodness.

nona nono

Bruna & Rino Salvalaggio

Grandpa Robert Matilda

Robert Matilda